Flows to the Future Project

Flows to the Future was a major project that took place from 2014 to 2019, funded by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and many other supporters. It restored large areas of blanket bog in the heart of the Flow Country that had been damaged by forestry planting. It also worked to involve and connect people everywhere with this precious habitat, delivering real economic benefits for one of the least densely populated areas in Scotland.                          


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The project was delivered by the Peatlands Partnership with the lead partner being RSPB (Scotland).

Project Details


Forsinard Flows Visitor Centre

The project has restored approximately 7 square miles of blanket bog habitat – removing forestry blocks, crushing brash and blocking furrows in areas where forestry has already been felled, and drain blocking, on RSPB Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve. This has involved removing 837.4 hectares of non-native trees from deep peat, blocking forestry furrow and drains over 1747 hectares and clearing regeneration non-native conifers over 564 hectares.

We have built an award-winning viewing tower – the Flows Lookout – and boardwalk on the Dubh-lochain Trail at Forsinard.

We have completely replaced and updated the information in the Visitor Centre at Forsinard, put in an extra car park and put in new interpretation on the Dubh-lochain Trail. We have also put in new displays about the Flow Country at Strathnaver Museum and Caithness Horizons. 

Volunteer at Forsinard

We have put in four roadside viewpoints across the Flow Country to give panoramic views of the peatlands. These are at Crask, Cnoc Craggie, Moine House and Loch Rangag. At Moine House there is a short trail for visitors to experience and learn about the peatlands. We have also signposted five walking trails. See our interactive map for details. 

We have increased the volunteering opportunities both at RSPB Forsinard Flows Reserve and elsewhere in Caithness and Sutherland by providing new volunteering accommodation in the new Field Centre that we have built at Forsinard. Over 270 volunteers were trained and carried out conservation, people engagement and office work during the project. The Project also successfully pioneered the first working holidays at Forsinard. The field centre accommodation is available at a small charge for visiting groups or individuals who are doing work connected with raising awareness and understanding or conservation of the Flow Country. For more information contact the Field Centre office on 01463 571225 or email Forsinard.admin@rspb.org.uk 


Forsinard Flows Field Centre Lab

We have established a peatland science centre of excellence at the Flows Field Centre at Forsinard, through provision of a small laboratory and accommodation within the new Field Centre to facilitate further research on the role of peatlands as a carbon store and on peatland restoration and biodiversity. This will develop linkages with a number of universities to further research and international collaboration. 

We have delivered learning opportunities for people across the Flow Country, including through a schools programme and community activities both at Forsinard and throughout Caithness and Sutherland. The schools programme included 151 outreach visits to 35 schools and 61 school visits to Forsinard. Overall this enabled 4246 interactions with school children across Caithness and Sutherland. 151 events were held locally including walks, talks and workshops, with over 4000 attendees, and many events further afield including in London, Edinburgh and Orkney.

We have provided remote learning/awareness raising opportunities – an interactive website, film, online landscape model of the Flow Country and carbon capture game, creative community arts commissions to encourage people to engage with the Flows through the arts, a travelling exhibition about carbon and peatlands. 

The project has enabled approximately £4.3 million to be spent with Caithness and Sutherland businesses. 


The project started on 4 July 2014 and finished on 31 October 2019. Although the project has finished, the Peatlands Partnership partners are continuing to work in the Flow Country to promote wider awareness and understanding and to support its sustainable management. 


See our project newsletters here:

2016 newsletter

2017 newsletter

2018 newsletter 

2019 newsletter


Economic Impacts

An economic impact study for this project was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. This outlines the potential significant benefits that will be delivered by on-going employment and tourism to the area. 

The study identified that additional employment impacts include:

  • Up to 26 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) posts for the duration of the project and then 10.9 FTEs in future years. 
  • Anticipated Gross Value Added (the financial impact in addition to the initial investment cost) from the 5 year long project ranges from £740,000 in year 2, stabilising to £190,000 in the years continuing after the project itself has finished. 
  • Over a 30 year period, the Gross Value Added across Caithness and Sutherland is estimated to be £6.3 million.

Five staff posts for five years will be directly created by the project:

  • Project Manager, a Project Administrator, a Community Engagement Officer, a Learning Officer and a Peatland Management Advisory Officer.
  • There will also be five summer contracts for field ecologists. 

Given their current experience in carrying out peatland restoration work, local contractors will be in a very good position to bid for and deliver the peatland restoration work. Construction of the Field Centre and viewing tower will also bring further spend that local contractors can benefit from.  Additionally, it is anticipated that the Field Centre, once built, will create increased demand and opportunities for local services. 

The project will use cutting edge technology to create an exciting interactive website that will be extensively marketed and promoted to new audiences via a travelling exhibition and schools programme. 

The economic impact study anticipates that this project will lead to a doubling of visitor numbers to Forsinard. 

Support for the Project

The Peatlands Partnership is grateful to the following for funders for supporting the project:

The Tubney Trust

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Further funding comes from the sale of timber which is felled and sold as part of the peatland restoration undertaken during the project.

The Peatlands Partnership is also very grateful to the many individuals, organisations and businesses across Caithness and Sutherland and also beyond who have show their support for the project during its development and who are working with the project.